Lessons from the Nativity: 4: Too young for God
Luke 1:34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
I have never written specifically for the young before, but Mary is a young person. If she lived today I guess she would be part of the church’s youth group and as it was she probably regularly attended Synagogue and sat with the women. Yes, I make those assumptions purely by considering her responses to the angel who came to her. She is, we would say, engaged to Joseph (Mt 1:18 / Lk 1:27) but unlike the unwise behaviour of many young people today she did not have a physical relationship with him (Lk 1:27)
Now see what happened: “The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.” (v.28) Now all that is, is a friendly greeting, but note Mary’s response: “Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.” (v.29) We aren’t told she was afraid because he was an angel but simply disturbed by being described as one who is ‘highly favoured’ by God and that God is with her. Now I have watched a sufficient number of people receiving prophetic words to know that this is not an uncommon reaction. Who am I? You say that God loves me and I am special? You say He has plans and purposes for me? Me???? These are all common responses and they come from people who are either physically young (like Mary) or spiritually young, people who don’t know who they are in Christ. Low self esteem is not just the prerogative of the world; it is common in the church where people are not well taught and do not realise who they are – people loved by God.
So the angel reassures her: “But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.” (v.30) But that may not help, that may need explanation, so he provides it: “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” (v.31-33) That is supposed to reassure her??? You’re going to have a baby, and not just any old baby, a very special baby who will become a mighty king, a mighty deliverer (for that’s what Jesus means).
Now at that point she has a problem, not because she doesn’t believe him but simply because she can’t see how such a thing can be. I mean, she’s only engaged, so will this happen after they are married, and what about this mighty king thing, Joseph is only a carpenter (maybe just an apprentice)? So she questions him (v.34) and he explains it will be a work of God enabling her to conceive without Joseph (v.35-37). Her response is what marks her out: “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” (v.38) Now I have done what I said I would not do with these studies – go through verse by verse – because I wanted you to see that she is an ordinary person with ordinary natural responses. As I said, the thing that marks her out is her response – willing availability to the will of God that is beyond her ability!
Now I have already told you of the responses that I often observe when prophetic words are brought to people and we’ve already seen how Zechariah was so locked into his ‘settled’ state that unbelief prevailed and he couldn’t believe it without something dramatic happening to him – which it did, when he was made dumb. But Mary isn’t locked into that feeling. Yes, she feels inadequate and maybe even embarrassed when she is told she has found favour with God (God likes you!), and she would like to know how practically such a thing could happen, but once she’s told, her response in modern terminology might be, “Right, let’s go for it! I don’t understand how it can be, but if God says it, I’ll go for it.”
So are you a young person, a young in heart Christian, or a young Christian, and suppose I wander up to you and say, “God’s got some great stuff for you and wants to do some great things through you to build his kingdom,” what would your response be? If it is simply, “Great let’s go for it,” then excellent! However if it is the more common, “You what? Me? You’ve got to be joking,” then we have some work to do!
The two big questions that must come before you are, (1) do you want your life to be a mundane materialistic life that leaves you feeling bored and unfulfilled by middle age, or do you want to be available for God to take you, teach you, build faith in you, equip and empower you and use you? and (2) do you actually believe in the God of the Bible who has the power to equip and transform and invites us to join him in changing this world?
The first question is about basic life ambitions and availability and the second question is about belief and faith. The answers for the first question tend to be clear cut: either you go for God and for a fulfilling life, or you go with the world, have a sham Christianity and die unfulfilled. It IS that simple. The second question is really about building a foundation on which to have a positive answer to the first question. If you are not sure about God then study the Bible on a regular basis, pray on a regular basis and watch your faith level rise. Use these meditations by all means and the series to follow this one in a week or so will all be about the God of transformation which should also help your faith grow.
Mary is a challenge to us with her simple availability to God and she provides an example to follow. Her obedience opened the way for the Son of God to come to the earth and for salvation to come to all who would receive it. Her obedience enabled the kingdom of God to be seen on earth.
To think on: our obedience will open the way for Jesus to come and move through us and be expressed on the earth thus revealing the kingdom of God to the world. You are never too young – physically or spiritually to let that happen. You have plenty of time to learn along the way but it starts with availability and willingness to let God do what only He can do in and through you. Go for it!